Below is a list of requirements for acceptance into the certificate program. For specific questions regarding the admissions process, contact an adviser at 312-503-2579.

Application Requirements

Applicants to this certificate program must hold a graduate degree from an accredited U.S. college, university or its foreign equivalent. A competitive graduate record that indicates strong academic ability is required, though applicants need not have extensive academic experience in public policy. Work experience in the public sector is desirable but not necessary.

Please note that courses completed in the certificate program cannot be transferred to the corresponding graduate degree.

Application Deadlines

  • Fall quarter: July 15
  • Winter quarter: October 15
  • Spring quarter: January 15
  • Summer quarter: April 15

If an application deadline falls on a weekend, supplemental materials will be due the next business day. Applications are accepted year round and are reviewed by the faculty admissions committee once a quarter. Applicants will be notified of their admission status approximately four weeks after the deadline.

Application Checklist

Statement of Purpose

Applicants must submit a 300-word statement of purpose explaining how the certificate program will help them meet their academic and professional goals. Applicants who do not have a graduate degree in public policy or a related field should explain how other academic and nonacademic experiences have prepared them to undertake graduate-level study in the field.

The writing sample should demonstrate the ability to present ideas and arguments in a manner appropriate to a graduate-level program. The sample can be an academic paper, a short work-related memo or analysis, or an essay describing a critical public policy issue.

If you submit an academic paper, it should consist of the following:

  • A clearly articulated thesis on a topic drawn from public policy or a related discipline
  • An argument that persuasively supports the thesis and demonstrates an awareness of contrary arguments
  • Documentation of quoted material and acknowledgement of ideas taken from the works of others using an accepted academic style guide

If you submit a work-related analysis of a policy, problem, or program of which you are the sole author it should consist of the following:

  • A clear identification of the organizational issue in need of attention
  • An analysis of the issue and its importance to the organization
  • Well-reasoned action options and your final recommendations

If you are submitting an essay it should be comprised of the following:

  • Describe what you see as one of the most critical public policy issues that faces the nation, your state, or your community
  • Provide a summary of a course of action you advocate to address this issue as if you were serving in a policy-making or administrative leadership role
  • Provide supporting justification for the action you are advocating

Supplemental Materials

Supplemental materials, with the exception of transcripts, must be uploaded to the online application. Official transcripts may be sent to our Admissions office at or mailed to our Chicago office. Please be sure to include the name of your intended program when addressing transcripts. Applicants will be notified once all materials have been received and the application is complete.

  • One sealed copy of an official transcript from a previously attended college and/or university showing a completed graduate degree. Official transcripts must arrive in our office in the original sealed envelope issued by the institution. Northwestern University School of Professional Studies accepts electronic transcripts from U.S. institutions via secure electronic transcript providers. Consult with your institution to see if they are part of a secure e-delivery network. All electronic transcripts should be sent to Please note transcripts are not accepted by fax or email. If you are currently enrolled, please submit an official transcript showing courses in-progress. Applicants with international transcripts must request an official course-by-course evaluation of transcripts from a NACES member such as WES or ECE. A course-by-course evaluation will translate courses, degrees and grades to U.S. equivalency.
  • One letter of recommendation focusing on academic and professional achievement and ability. Ideally, this recommendation would be from a faculty member in the applicant's graduate program.
  • Statement of purpose
  • A writing sample
  • Current résumé or curriculum vitae
Transcript mailing address:

MPPA Graduate Admissions
Northwestern University School of Professional Studies
Wieboldt Hall, Sixth floor
339 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, Illinois 60611-3008

Application Tips

Your application will be evaluated by the MPPA Admissions Committee.

The certificate programs are academic and professional, so the ideal student has substantial abilities and experience in both areas. An academic background and research experience in public policy-related areas, such as political science, history, sociology, statistics, is especially desirable. Work experience, even internships, is an advantage. All applicants should be able to demonstrate how they are prepared to succeed in the certificate program and use the certificate to advance their professional careers.

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